Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Do You Know You're Saved II

There is seldom a better place to begin anything than at the beginning. So let's there begin our exegetical study of John's first epistle, at chapter 1: 1 - 4. There we read first and foremost that this is first hand eyewitness testimony. That John is not simply reporting something told to him by a friend of a cousin's neighbor. John is reporting on matters concerning Jesus the Christ, whom he knew personally, whom he saw crucified first hand, and whom he personally witnessed risen from the dead on the third day.

If you've ever watched a lawyer show on television, you no doubt have heard someone impugn evidence as being "just circumstantial." But what almost no one knows is that circumstantial evidence is almost always the very best kind. There are only two categories of evidence. Those are testimonial and circumstantial. If evidence is not the testimony of a witness (e.g. an eyewitness' account of events or an expert's opinion) then it is circumstantial evidence. All of that CSI forensic evidence that so many are enamored of, it really is literally, all circumstantial evidence.

So you can see that circumstantial evidence is usually far better than testimonial evidence. The worst possible evidence is the testimony of an eyewitness. That is unless (and this is a very important caveat) the witness knew the person they were testifying against before the incident they're testifying about. Think about it and it will make sense. The eyewitness to a robbery is subjected to the highest degree of emotional stress that a human being can experience, the fear of imminent death. They're being subjected to screaming and yelling and having guns waved in their face, and it doesn't matter how certain they are, their memory of the event is just not trustworthy. It's not reliable.

Unless, that is, they knew the robber from before the robbery. Then they're not seeing some guy waving a gun at them. They're seeing George wave a gun at them, and that changes everything. That fact alone makes their testimony the most reliable evidence you can ask for, even better than DNA. Though it may be improbable, it is possible that DNA samples might have been cross contaminated at the lab or planted at the scene. But if an eyewitness sees someone they know committing a robbery, then the only doubt can be the honesty of the witness.

John knew Jesus personally. John saw Him crucified, watched Him die, with his own two eyes. And three days later John saw the risen Lord, again with his own two eyes and for forty days after. And so John's testimony, as well as that of the remaining Apostles, is the best evidence possible. Of course, if you believe Mohammed, specifically what he wrote in verse 157 of An Nisa (Sura 4) of the Koran, then you believe that the Apostles are deceivers and Jesus' crucifixion and subsequent resurrection was a hoax. But history records that to the man, the Apostles, not collectively together as a group but individually, separated by decades and continents, each alone and individually chose to be martyred when they could have avoided death by simply denying the resurrection of Jesus. That not a single one of them did succinctly refutes any challenge of their honesty.

Now note that John is not writing to share his own opinions, but those things which were shown to him (verse 3). And he reiterates this fact in verse 5, that he is declaring only that which Jesus has taught him. He goes on to say, in verses 5 - 7, that since God is light, if we walk in the light we are in fellowship with Him. More pointedly John says first that if we say we have fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, then we lie.

Don't forget, the question we are asking is, "How do we know we're saved?" And we saw that many will believe themselves to be "in good" with Jesus when they are not (Matthew 7: 21 -23). And here John tells us the first way we can determine if we are one of these deceived souls, by asking whether we walk in the light or in the darkness.

So what does it mean, to "walk in the light?" Think about light. What is light? Light is the substance which makes things visible. Without light you could see nothing. And so, if God is light, to walk in the light means to live in such a way as to see the world, and yourself, the way God sees you, through God's eyes if you will. John tells us that if we walk in the light we have fellowship with God and Jesus' blood cleanses us from all sins.

If this still seems a bit confusing, don't despair. John immediately reiterates his thought in different words for clarity's sake. In verses 8 - 10 John explains that if we claim that we don't sin, that if we try to deny our own sins, then we are deceiving ourselves. Indeed, if we deny that our sins are sins then we are calling God a liar.

This is the opposite of walking in the light. If we walk in the light then we see our sins clearly, as the sins they are. And if we confess our sins, God is both faithful and just to forgive them, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Do not let it pass unnoticed that John stipulates that God is both faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of our unrighteousness.

Many of those people Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7, those deceived souls who do not yet know how much trouble they're in, will tell you that theirs is a loving God. And indeed, God is loving. His love is perfect. But so is His justice. And God will do nothing that is unjust. So you see, it doesn't matter how much God loves you. If forgiving your sins and cleansing you of all unrighteousness were unjust, He simply wouldn't.

Bear this in mind as you read on in John's epistle. In chapter 2 verses 1 and 2 John explains that he is writing this so that we won't sin, but that if we do sin (and we all do, all the time) we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus the Christ. John explains that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, that is to say for all the sins of everyone in the whole world, ever.

The word "propitiation" means appeasement. To propitiate is to reconcile through appeasement. In other words, Jesus' blood was the penalty required in order that God could forgive our sins. Without paying that price, God would have been unjust to simply forgive us. So it is no small matter that God is both faithful and just to forgive our sins.

So this is the first way John tells us that we can know we are saved, if we walk in the light. Do we recognize our sins as sins? Do we confess our sins and trust God to forgive them? Or do we try to justify ourselves? Do we try to deny that our sins are even sins at all? If we do, then we are counted among the deceived.

Now continuing in chapter 2, verses 3 - 6 John tells us the second way to know we are saved, namely that we keep God's commandments. Again, if we claim to be saved, but we don't keep His commandments, His words, then we lie and the truth is not in us.

Consider John 14: 23. Jesus said the same thing. Unfortunately, too many people read this verse as though Jesus were pleading with people. They read this as though Jesus is acting like some sort of spoiled child trying to get his way, whining to his parents "If you loved me you'd get me a new bike." But Jesus is not pleading, and He certainly is not whining. He is simply stating fact. And John explains the same thing here in verses 5 and 6. Whoever keeps God's word, in that man is God's love truly (verily) perfected.

But don't make the mistake of believing that John is introducing a requirement of works for salvation. He most certainly is not, and he explains just that in verses 7 - 11. If we read verses 7 and 8 it may sound to us as though John is contradicting himself. First he says he is not writing a new commandment, then he says he is doing just that. In fact, this was his way of saying that he isn't telling us anything new, but instead only that which God has revealed from olden times in His scriptures. But then he explains that now those old laws, those old commandments are told us in a new, a more succinct and easily understood, way. He explains that the law of old is now told us in even greater revelation and clarity (by Jesus of course, not by John).

Read Luke 10: 25 - 29. Jesus asked a lawyer what the Law said to do and the lawyer correctly summarized the whole of the Law of Moses as a command to love God first, and your neighbor as yourself. But, like the people John spoke of in chapter 1, verses 8 - 10, this lawyer wanted to try and justify himself. Like those who try to deny that their sins are sins at all, this lawyer tried to split hairs over just who was his neighbor.

But I digress. The point is that even to him it was clear that the summation of God's law was a command to love (Galatians 5: 14). So the command to love is nothing new, but we do have a new command from Jesus the Christ, that we love one another as He loved us (John 15: 10 - 12).

And so now, as we finish out this passage with verses 9 - 11 we learn that John has in fact not explained two ways by which we can know we are saved, but that in fact the two are one and the same. He explains that we can not walk in the light if we hate our brother. You see, to keep God's commandments is to love. Keeping God's commandments means loving God above all others, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and loving our brethren as Christ loved us. Far from a doctrine of doing works, keeping God's law means loving Him and others.

And no, this is not something you can do on your own. As sinful men we are incapable of this kind of selfless love. If we try to do this of our own accord, then we will only find ourselves at the Judgment Seat crying, "Lord, Lord!" So you see this can not be a new doctrine of works. The only way we can ever love our brethren as Christ loved us is if His love is perfected in us, if we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2: 8 - 10).

So far from introducing a new doctrine of salvation by works, John is merely describing the effect of God's work in our lives. He is describing that new creation we will become. And if this describes you, then it can only be that God has wrought this work in you. And if this doesn't describe you, then you are in serious need of some real soul searching and prayer.

1 John 1
1    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 
2    (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 
3    That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 
4    And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5    This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 
6    If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 
7    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
9    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 
10    If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Matthew 7: 21 - 23    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

1 John 2
1    My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 
2    And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
3    And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 
4    He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 
5    But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 
6    He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
7    Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. 
8    Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. 
9    He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 
10    He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 
11    But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

John 14: 23    Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Luke 10: 25 - 29    And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Galatians 5: 14    For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

John 15: 10 - 12    If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Ephesians 2: 8 - 10    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.